Thursday, July 30, 2015

Something Wrong

It’s hot. Mid-afternoon. I fall asleep again. Wake up again. There’s something wrong with me. I wander out to the back and sit at the table. Light a cigarette. In the place behind the yard a woman is singing to a child. The child has no words yet, but makes only sounds. Whenever the woman stops singing, the child makes the sounds and she begins again. The shirt I was wearing this morning is draped over the opposite chair, having forgotten me. The shirttail lazily furls and unfurls in the absent-minded breeze. The woman sings. I remember the laundry I started this morning, still in the machine. Soup for a week. But someone will have to hang it out to dry. Like me. Me and the laundry and my pretend dog Snoopy. I don’t remember anyone ever singing a lullaby to me. I was too young. Or my brother was too old. Was. That’s the key. I’m pretty sure there’s something wrong with me.


The truth seems often so dreary. We've heard it before. We want something new. We need to be entertained, like discontented children. What if?

It seems now that the mysteriously lost Malaysian Airlines jet has been found. It did not disappear. It was not taken to a secret island by the CIA. It was not abducted by aliens.

Not very interesting at all, and, therefore, unacceptable.

How is it that it suddenly just showed up, they will ask? The entire Pacific Ocean had been searched, and it's not really THAT big of a place, right? Clearly, the sinister forces that absconded with the jet in the first place have now planted a well crafted replica, made to appear the proper age and bear the proper extent of deterioration. Why they waited so long to do it is another question, of course, but maybe they didn't fully think the thing through to begin with.

A similar scenario occurred a long time ago with a squad of fighter planes that disappeared in the fabled Devil's Triangle, off the coast of Florida. They simply disappeared, with no possible explanation other than the fantastic. The most prominent theory was that they were taken by aliens.

But the problem is, they were finally found - not so mysteriously at the bottom of the ocean.

Bummer, right? Once again, we are faced with these dreary facts, the monotony of truth, this maddening creature that retains its form no matter how much you twist it.

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

That is where the true and deep mysteries begin, where reality is left to be itself and we begin to contemplate what remains.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Lucifer and Joe

The more I think about this, the more it kind of bothers me. Earlier today, I posted photo of the life-size Camel cigarettes Camel (Joe Camel) at the Circle K in Sanur. They must have gotten this in some kind of warehouse sale, because Joe's image is now against the law in the US. It cannot be displayed on cigarette packs or on posters or in any manner whatsoever. It is thought that Joe Camel will inspire people to smoke, and smoking is bad for you. That's one thing they do display on the packs, in graphic pictures.

And yet, here is this 9 foot, 200 pound statue of Satan in Detroit. There are also statues of Satan in Washington DC and other cities. This one is different in that it pictures him standing with two small children.

What is the message here? Is Satan the Saint of children, the protector of innocence? Not at all. Satan is the prince of evil, the father of lies, the archetypal enemy of God and mankind. To this day, sick people, under the spell of evil, carry out deeds of ritual sacrifice, molestation and murder in his name. And so we erect a statue to honor him

At the same time, atheists demand that statues and images of Christ be removed from sight - the most recent one honoring the fallen among ski troops in World War II. Christian images must not be displayed, even at Christmas time, where they may be seen by the public - no, not even on one's own front lawn.

They fear that Joe Camel may inspire people to smoke, but they fear not the inspirations of Satan. They fear that people will be offended by Christ - which is not news, for He said so Himself - but they imagine that people will admire the Devil.

And they may just be right.

Friday, July 24, 2015

You Can't Go Home Again

“Something has spoken to me in the night...and told me that I shall die, I know not where. Saying: "Death  is to lose the earth you know for greater knowing; to lose the life you have, for greater life; to leave the friends you loved, for greater loving; to find a land more kind than home, more large than earth.”
― Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again

Two things happened.

One was that my stepson, Sasha, went back home to America to live with his father. I say home because Sasha has never thought of it as other than home, despite having left when he was ten and spent five years in Bali. Three-quarters Indonesian, Sasha was born in America, spent his formative years in America and is, quite simply, an American. Indonesia, the birthplace of his father and mother, was always a foreign land to him. The most that can be said is that he got used to it, more or less.

The first picture I saw on Facebook was of Sasha enjoying fiberoptic cable internet. The second was of Sasha holding an automatic rifle, surrounded by fully stocked gun racks. Both made me feel uneasy.

Arizona is where he lives now. The State of Hate, his father calls it. I wouldn’t know. I was there when I was five and all I remember is buying a little papoose doll from an old Indian woman. That was on the Navaho reservation. It must be different now. It could not have stayed the same these fifty-five years.

The second thing that happened is that I called my old home in Oregon this morning and talked to my son, Holden. I say “home”, but I suppose that by home I mean him, or just the fact of his presence where home used to be. There is no house anymore, no property, no parents and no relatives. And yet, when he describes what he has been doing, where he has been, I can picture the places more clearly than those beyond my own front door.

I’m looking at the present through eyes of the past and I’m not sure which place is the more real between the two. I’m listening to the familiar voice of my son on the phone as we speak of things that always were, always have been, always will be; and now, as I write this, I understand only myself, the words inside my head, whilst without, as dim as the darkness that has fallen, is the exclusive fluency of a chatter shared only by others. This is what we may call loneliness, in the purest sense. It is not intentional, it is not premeditated, it is not mitigable. It merely is. I must try very had to understand what should otherwise be easy. And, curiously, it occurs to me that when you can understand, it doesn’t matter, but when you can’t, it does.

Home. It has not been five years, but five hundred – a multitude of removals, surcease and separation, beginning, ending, thriving and dying. Time, like an atonal music, is a virtuoso of disarray which fervently awaits the comfort of silence.

Wolfe said it best, and in only five words. You can’t go home again.

Until you do.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Difference

There is, to my mind, a critical difference between the classic conspiracy theory and the common activities of espionage agencies. The machinations of such agencies are not conspiracies but ‘spy games’, carried out under the direction of a country’s leadership to secure and protect that country’s interests. The conspiracy theory, as it stands apart now from the typical espionage or political coverup scenario, is a creature of fantastic and inexplicable nature, a counterintuitive set of self contradicting elements that becomes so entangled in its own complications that it becomes, ultimately, merely humorous. It thrives on disinformation and a growing corporate paranoia in society. It is stubbornly resistant to facts, because all facts must surely emanate from the conspirators. It is immune to the basic principles of logic, and when shown to be false, either stubbornly adheres to the falsehood, in the hopes that truth will simply go away, or morphs to an alternate scenario wherein it may, for a limited time, persist again.

The Checkered Pants

When I was young, I used to enjoy reading the tales of Paul Bunyan, the giant logger who tamed the American wilderness along with Babe the Blue Ox and Paul's colorful crew of lumberjacks. I guess they'd be sort of anti-heroes now, since chopping down trees is not cool, just in the way that Pecos Bill, Daniel Boone and bear killing Davy Crockett would be anti-heroes, though of course the latter two were actual personages.

I was just remembering the story of Sandy McNabb and his checkered pants. One of Paul's crew members, Sandy regularly wore a pair of checkered pants and was perfectly happy with these until one day when another crew member asked him whether those pants were black with white checks or white with black checks.

Well, this question got right into Sandy's head and stuck fast there. He began to ponder the thing day and night, such that it tormented him unceasingly. Indeed, were the pants black with white checks or white with black checks? How could one possibly know? How could one ever find out? One simply could not. These pants, once so natural seeming and cozy, had become an unbearable enigma, a curse, a plague, and he must walk about day by day in this indeterminate, insoluble world of doubt, with no escape from the eternal question of those pants.

Well, rather than just change the pants or buy a new pair, poor Sandy went mad, and was no more use to Paul or himself or the world. So things go in tall tales.

And sometimes in life, too. There are some questions that are just plain questions, and are happy that way. They don't come with answers. As questions, they are true enough to themselves, as clear as black and white.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The News?

This morning’s reading of the world according to Facebook led me through an unusual set of absurdities, rather different and yet rather the same as the familiar and ever morphing secular conspiracy theories one is likely to encounter, along with the bonehead comments on serious, real world events. Instead, my eye caught one article regarding the identity of the anti-Christ in an ancient dead sea scroll. Very strange, since the Christ himself had not yet come at that time..  In fact, the word ‘antiChrist’ appears only in the gospel of John and refers only to those who deny Christ, not to some particular individual who is to arise in the future. One article led to another, as these things go, each more absurd and misguided than the former. He is the Pope, he is a Muslim, he is a a Jew, a figure of magical powers and powerful illusion. He is even President Obama (but don’t fret, Barack, he was Bush before you). Essentially, these theories are designed to set various groups of people against one another. They propose a worldly farce in the place of spirituality, a kingdom of confusion in the place of the kingdom of God, fantasies more appropriate to the Hollywood movie than the true depth of truth and wisdom in scripture. In short, he is us. Prophesies themselves are not made to be unravelled and revealed beforetime, but to glorify the omniscience and foreknowledge of God after the fact, not for the pulpit of ignorant men and their na├»ve, gullible followers. “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” Such was told Timothy by Paul. The conspiracy theory, though it is a shame to admit, is originally a religious phenomenon, and, by that measure, secular conspiracy theories are essentially religious in character, in the worst possible sense. They are manifestations of ignorance, of paranoia, of superstition, grappling with the world through the obverse end of a telescope. It is so very much easier to entangle oneself in the adventure of worldly rumors than to take up your rough wooden cross and travel the uncompromising, unchanging road of truth, pure and simple.

Not long ago, my son from my second marriage contacted me via FB Messenger. Seeming rather concerned, he asked my opinion regarding whether the world was set to end at any moment – a conviction that had been conveyed by his mother. Nothing matters. His studies, his career, his love life. One must simply look to the heavens in anticipation.

Indeed, one must. Why wouldn’t he?  From whence do love, joy, hope, promise, justice emanate in the first place? But I’ll tell you this, I said. Your mother has been saying this for as long as I’ve known her, because this, to her, is hope; and is far easier than growing, than changing, than pursuing the hard and the painful work of becoming more like Him.  No, the  world is not about to end. For you it is just beginning. For when they say it is ending, you know most certainly that it is not.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


It seems that I am becoming what I swore never to become - a walking enthusiast! What's wrong with me? I can't stand people who walk, yet here I am walking - walking to the coffee shop, walking to the store, walking on the beach, walking for no particular reason, when I have a perfectly good, in fact a perfectly new scooter in the driveway. Before you know it, I will be wanting special walking shoes, spandex shorts, a headband (never mind that I have no hair), kneepads, an elastic strap for my glasses and, of course, a pedometer.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Just My Opinion

Surprised to find Limamike's open on Galungan. Often enough, one finds them closed even on a normal day, and here they are open on a major holiday. Indeed, many other places are closed. In fact, most other places are, in Renon, anyway. This has made the streets very pleasant for traveling about.

The big news today is all about the Iran nuclear deal. Obama says that the world is now a safer place, while Netanyahu says it's a much more dangerous place. What is clear, if anything is clear, is that one or the other must eventually be shown to have been wrong.

Well, I suppose even that is not true, really. Politicians are never wrong. They are merely misunderstood.

In any case, I find myself most inclined to agree with Obama on this, though there is an element of reluctance in doing so. I have to admire, once again, the man's dogged determination in pursuing the goals he believes in, even in the face of continued antagonistic rhetoric from the leaders in Iran. Death to America, death to Israel, and such-like. These statements are clearly unacceptable, as Obama himself acknowledges; but the point is not whether Iran likes us, but what the best way is to avoid a nuclear Iran or a rush to war. The natural response at the sight of flag burning and hate-speech is to be offended and to reply in kind.

This is where Obama's amazing patience and self confidence come into play. It is, to me, stunningly unusual in a human being.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


I was going to write something depressing, but I'll write this instead.

I was just thinking, as I walked over to Limamike's Coffee, about how very unkind people can be, when I was stopped midway on the walk by a Balinese man standing in front of his house. He introduced himself as Budi and, of course, wanted to know all about me - where I'm from, how long have I been here, where am I going, how many children do I have, and so on. All pretty routine, for Bali, to that point.

And then he asked if I'd like to come to his house and sit with him.

Excuse me?

You see folks, this just doesn't happen in America. Someone may ask you to get off his property, but not to come onto it. In fact, if you are just passing by a person, the greatest extent of conversation you might expect is a sort of begrudging grunt of acknowledgement. They're certainly not going to ask you to come up on the porch and sit awhile. Not in this century, anyway.

And so he introduced me to his youngest child, and to his wife and invited me to sit with him and visit on the porch.

We talked about my family and his family, his original home in Lovina, a relative who lives in America and hasn't been back for five years; about the Balinese people and the Hindu people and the Indonesians and Muslims, and about his job as a taxi driver and how he drives to Kuta every day because that's where the fares are. Just small talk, but intensely friendly small talk of the type we no longer know or engage in back home, unless maybe you're traveling in the deep, deep South.

And so I am encouraged anew, and renewed at heart. People are not so bad after all.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Bear in the Yard

A long time ago, when my second wife and I used to run an adult foster care home, one of the old ladies imagined that a bear could often be seen in the yard. Or in any case, she herself often saw the bear.

That bear is in the yard again, she would say.

Well, my mom, who eventually moved in as well when her condition with Alzheimers worsened, believed in this bear just as firmly, although she had never actually seen it.  She simply took the other old woman's word for it - and from that time on, she would not let her poor little poodle dog go outside without an escort. 'Where's Teddy!' she would exclaim in panic. "Is Teddy in the yard with that bear?"

"No, Mom. Teddy is right here," I would reassure. "Teddy's right under your chair."

"Oh, thank God. I just don't know why you keep a bear in your yard, Preston."

She called me Preston, you see. Preston was the name of her brother.

For a long time I tried to convince her of her mistake, but I finally gave up and simply became Preston for the sake of convenience.

What's in a name, anyway?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Principalities and Powers

There is a proclivity among people, and a distinctly modern one, I think, to see others, especially those possessing money or power, as sinister, devoid of natural affections or a common moral sense. These are the puppet masters, who scheme and manipulate from high places, with a motive to betray and control through any and every means. To me, this picture is fatally flawed on a number of levels. It demands an intricate cooperation in the face of the chaos represented by the stubbornness, the contrariness of the individual. It requires us to believe that mere power and riches have the ability to unite, to suck the very essence of a man's soul from his person, such that he may become, in order to be truly sinister, devoid of the most basic components of civilized existence - love, compassion, community, conscientiousness - a mutual agreement that we must survive not alone but together. We may disagree politically, but that doesn't make our opponent a monster. It merely makes him a Republican ( ;) ). We may define the fine points of morality in different ways, but we do so from the inescapable basis that there is such a thing as morality to begin with, and that its key components remain eternally intact. There is no living person, man or woman, rich or poor, strong or weak, who doesn't know what love is. The power of evil, with which we are at war, resides not in man-made plans and institutions, but in high places, in cosmic principalities and powers that are far beyond the ken of mere men.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Gay Marriage

The Supreme Court decision to universally legalize gay marriage was really more complex than many people allow. With some states legalizing gay marriage and others not, all sorts of legal and social difficulties were lining up for the future, in court rooms and in conflicts between state law and federal law. In order that the country may proceed as a union united under common laws, either one case or the other had ultimately to attain. The Federal government has been the supreme and the final authority ever since the Civil War. The rule would have to be collective, not fragmented - pertinent in one place but not in another. The decision, therefore, really had to pose one law for all. The most logical, least troublesome decision was legalization throughout the states.  It was neither a moral nor an immoral decision. It was merely a realistic decision. Everybody prefers his own spin on the thing, but the preference of the court was for practicality, pure and simple. So it's not the beginning of an age of universal tolerance and love. That will never happen in this world. Nor is it the end of the world, as some loudly proclaim. It just is what it is.